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Opinion: Ramen for every meal, as $300 fee hike slams students

This week, my fellow community college students and I staged the first-ever “Ramen-in” at Governor Brown’s offices (now-closed former offices) across the state. Hundreds of students delivered thousands of packages of Ramen to show the impact of the $300 fee increase the governor has proposed ($10 per unit for 30 units, a normal academic year’s load). We are already struggling to pay for classes, books, rent, and childcare; a $10 increase in student fees would make school that much more inaccessible and another hurdle for those of us in financial need. Students, faculty and our community supporters protested this huge fee increase this week, which will come from students’ budget for food and other necessities. Students will be eating Ramen for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Not one day…every day.

It is clear that fee increases on any community college campus specifically one like San Diego City College will push many students out of higher education. As it is, many students cannot afford the current fees; and if they are further multiplied the drop out rate will increase strictly for financial reasons. We know this because with every significant past fee increase, fewer students have attended community college.

The proposed State Budget continues to threaten the future of California by reducing our investment in public education and the students who will lead our state in the coming years. We recognize that Governor Brown inherited a dreadful state fiscal situation, and applaud his honest attempt to cast aside gimmicks and smokescreens.

But student fees represent a tax on the wrong people. Why should students have to shoulder the burden of the state’s budget crisis when there are so many wealthy people in this state who are not paying their fair share?

For example, the top 1% in Californians are getting $9 billion from the extension of the Bush tax cuts while students are forced to pay a poverty tax to help balance the budget. That fee increase goes to the general fund, not to the community college system: students will literally be paying more for less.

At least $4.3 billion more will be cut from education in the coming year, on top of $18 billion in cuts over the past few years. In addition to the state’s lack of investment, our schools will lose $3 billion in federal funding. The California state budget deficit is $18 billion.  Repealing the tax cut for billionaires and millionaires would solve half our state budget deficit.

Relying on student fees to compensate for the cuts to education is not a sustainable solution. I don’t understand why Republican lawmakers refuse to raise taxes on the wealthy, but have no problem raising $300 fees for community college students. Our legislators need to bring better solutions to the table soon. For momentum is building as students are organizing, and we will not allow anybody to take our education and future away.

Enough is enough.

It would be one thing to over-spend on public services, but unfortunately California priorities are mixed up; that is against the public sector.

It is devastating to think that California spends more on prisons than on education. With one of the most unequal wealth distributions we have seen in the US since the Great Depression it is unconscionable that we would cut something as vital to democracy as education. The man who led us out of such times; Franklin D. Roosevelt was quoted as saying “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” Do we no longer trust the leadership of the best U.S. President?

Please think of our future society, state, communities and individuals as we call for passage of AB 1239 (Furutani), that would increase income taxes on those who make more than a quarter million dollars a year. A temporary 10% income tax bracket would be established for those making over $250,000, and an 11% tax bracket for those with taxable incomes over $400,000. These tax brackets are similar to those established by former Governor Wilson, and would expire after 5 years.

It’s time that the wealthy contribute more to our society and think of our future. Students are already scraping the bottom of the barrel – or ramen cup – and we call upon the governor and the legislature to spread the pain to those at the top.

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